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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 09:47 GMT
Kirchner's policies remain a mystery
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Cristina Kirchner (28 Oct)
Mrs Kirchner has promised to follow the broad policies of her husband
The celebrations were short and muted. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner won the elections and will take over as the next president of Argentina with the minimum of fuss.

It was a result that had been anticipated since campaigning began several months ago and many in Argentina, where voting is obligatory, were simply going through the motions.

The opposition was fragmented, splitting the anti-Kirchner vote. As the results came in, it became clear that Cristina Kirchner was well ahead and would avoid the need for a second round next month.

Addressing supporters at her campaign headquarters in a hotel in Buenos Aires, she said the victory margin was the largest since Argentina returned to democracy in 1983 after military rule.

Disorganised vote

Mrs Kirchner thanked her husband Nestor, who she will replace as president before being drowned out by the cheering crowd.

Elisa Carrio, who she beat into a distant second place, was not exactly magnanimous in defeat, saying the election had not been transparent. Other defeated candidates echoed her view.

Supporters of Cristina Kirchner celebrate in Buenos Aires
Her supporters began celebrating soon after the polls closed

Political analyst, Felipe Noguera, said the vote was one of the most disorganised in recent Argentine history.

It was always a struggle to keep Argentines interested in an election where the result appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

The electoral authorities could not find sufficient volunteers to work in the polling stations and many opened late.

There were large queues of voters and the stations were kept open for an extra hour to allow everyone the chance to cast their ballots. Three Argentines died while waiting to vote.

Fragile economy

The results may be known but many unanswered questions remain.

Nestor Kirchner has still not explained why he decided to stand down and nominate his wife as his successor.

And he has still not said what he will do when he hands the presidential sash to his wife in December.

While Mr and Mrs Kirchner share many ideas, they have very different styles and she might be more willing to enter into dialogue with opponents, says analyst Felipe Noguera.

Nestor Kirchner is a rather dour man, working behind the scenes to build alliances. She is more flamboyant, a fiery speaker who some say has adopted the style of the original strongwoman of Argentine politics, Evita Peron.

Cristina's victory across the country was convincing but she did not do well among middle-class voters in the big cities - Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario.

They are the ones worried about the threat of rising inflation and a fragile economy. They are the ones who were hit hardest when the Argentine economy collapsed six years ago.

A Toba indigenous man in Castelli, northern Argentina
Mrs Kirchner has promised to battle poverty and unemployment

Thousands lost their savings, there were riots and the shanty-towns grew.

They simply did not believe government assurances that the economy was doing well and inflation was under control.

Winning their confidence will be one of Cristina Kirchner's major challenges.

In her victory speech, she urged the whole society to work together without rancour and hatred. A country, she said, could not be built by a government alone. She promised a battle without respite against poverty and unemployment.

Despite annual growth rates of 8%, poverty and unemployment are still major problems.

During her campaign, she travelled widely, most notably to the United States, a country with which Nestor Kirchner has rather icy relations.

She has met Hillary Clinton who she no doubt hopes will join the growing number of women in top jobs in the Americas, along with President Michelle Bachelet in Chile and several women in senior government posts in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Most analysts do not expect great changes in policy when Cristina takes over from Nestor. He, they say, will probably still be exerting his influence from behind the scenes.

But no-one is quite sure since there was so little discussion of policy during the campaign. The major candidates did not hold a debate and Mrs Kirchner gave just a couple of interviews to the media just a few days before the election.

Her style will certainly be very different to her husband's. But exactly what she has planned for the future of Argentina remains something of a mystery.

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